This story is dedicated to Gratchets/Levade. I truly hope this comes close to your expectations!
Author's Chapter Notes:
Title: An Elfling's Touch
Disclaimer: I don't own any of them except for the OC's...
AN ELFLING’S MAGIC
The sun came up over the horizon, sending its warmth and light racing across the wide ocean, across the sand and into the windows of a house perched on a cliff in the Havens. The elfling sleeping within was suddenly aware of the rays that now seemed to invade every corner of his room. Yet, he felt warm and comfortable and really had no desire to get up. He grabbed on to his stuffed rabbit and rolled over, turning his back on what promised to be a beautiful, yet cold day.
Just as the little elf was once again getting comfortable the door to his room opened and a head poked inside.
“Ah, good. You are awake. Hurry and get washed up and dressed. Breakfast will not wait for you.”
When there was no movement from the lump in the bed the elf spoke again. “Now Ereinion.”
This brought a little sigh from the area of the bed and the dark-haired elfling pulled the covers down enough that he could see the elf at his door.
“Yes, Cirdan,” he said, sitting up and yawning. Satisfied that the little elf was now up, the elder elf closed the door quietly and headed downstairs.
Ereinion pulled his stuffed rabbit close for a moment, hugging it to him. It was one of the very few possessions that had been sent with him when his father, Fingon, High King of the Noldor, had him delivered into the security of the Havens and into the care of Cirdan, the Shipwright. The elfling remembered back to mornings when his Naneth would come quietly into his room and gently sit on the edge of his bed and sing softly to him, reaching out with her fingers and stroking the soft, flawless cheek of her son. There was no more of that now, only calls from the doorway for him to get up.
Knowing that was all he could expect, Ereinion got out of bed and went over to the wash stand in the corner of his room and with both hands lifted the heavy pitcher and poured water into the bowl, washed his face and dried it with the towel hanging on the wash stand. The elfling went over to the wardrobe where his clothes were neatly stored and he picked out a blue tunic and black leggings. He took off his nightshirt and put it in a basket by the door, where the housekeeper would later pick it up and add it to the laundry. He slipped the tunic over his head and pulled the leggings on. Remembering socks he went back over to the wardrobe and picked out a pair and sat on the floor and put them on. He then went to the dressing table, picked up his hairbrush and ran it through his long, raven-colored hair. His Naneth used to braid it for him, but he did not know how to do it by himself, so now he always wore his hair loose, most of the time tucked behind his delicately pointed little ears.
Ereinion left his room and quietly shut the door and went down the stairs and into the dining area, where Cirdan was already eating and enjoying the fragrant tea he preferred. He was so engrossed over a new ship design he was working on that he did not even notice the little elf enter. Ereinion walked over to the table, pulled out the chair and climbed up on it, not an easy task considering the thick cushion that he had to sit on to be able to see over the table. The wooden chair was very slippery and the cushion slid easily and more than once the elfling had found himself under the table on the floor, with nothing more than a ‘take care, Ereinion,’ from Cirdan.
The elfling sat and looked at the delicious looking breakfast on the table in front of him…just out of his reach. He looked at Cirdan who was reading a parchment of ship measurements and then at the shipwright’s plate. There was a generous helping of the fluffy eggs that Ereinion loved so much, along with two buttermilk biscuits with melted butter and raspberry jam and the elfling felt his mouth begin to water.
“May I have some eggs, please, Cirdan?” he asked softly.
Without taking his eyes off of the diagram, the elder elf motioned with his fork. “Yes, yes. Help yourself.”
However, after a few moments it occurred to him that he had not seen the elfling move and he glanced over the parchment, only to see a little face staring back at him, eyes pleading for help. Sighing and putting down the parchment Cirdan took Ereinion’s plate and put a few spoonfuls of scrambled eggs and a biscuit on his plate. Seeing the gray eyes come to rest on him once more the shipwright sighed again.
“I suppose you would like me to butter it for you and put jam on it also, hmm?”
The little dark head nodded. “Yes, please.”
Cirdan picked up the biscuit and broke it open, its flaky layers releasing steam into the cool room. The elf buttered both sides and then slathered it with jam and put it on the elfling’s plate.
“Now, anything else?” Cirdan asked impatiently.
Ereinion looked at his plate and then saw the glass of milk that the housekeeper had poured for him and he shook his head.
“No thank you, sir,” he said, reaching for the tall glass of milk.
Cirdan nodded and went back to his sketches, shaking his head. It truly amazed him how helpless elflings could be at times; always needing things done for them such as help at the table, untying knots that had somehow found their way into lacing on leggings and tunics, boots that did not want to seem to come off, picking splinters out of little fingers. Really, there seemed to be no end to the demands of these little creatures.
It had been a very trying six months for both elfling and shipwright. Ereinion had come from a very loving family and had never lacked for cuddles and kisses or bedtime stories. However, Cirdan had never had any children and in fact, had never been one himself, being one of the original elves that awoke at Cuivienen. The shipwright had immersed himself in his trade and you could ask him anything about a ship; what kind of wood was best, how deep would it sit in the water, how much cargo and how many crew could it carry, Cirdan could tell you instantly. But when it came to elflings, Cirdan was like a ship floundering in a raging sea, not sure which direction to go in and feeling a loss of control.
Before the arrival of the High Prince, Cirdan had enjoyed a peaceful life of quiet mornings and quiet evenings and an orderly house. He had always prided himself that his residence was as ship shape as the crafts that sailed the waters…everything in its place. That had changed quite a bit with the arrival of the elfling. Now, more often than not Cirdan had to take care not to trip over a pair of little boots in the hallway or get his feet tangled in a small cloak that seemed not to have made it to its peg. Mealtimes were still quiet affairs, more often than not with Cirdan perusing new ship designs and supply invoices for the shipyards, leaving the elfling with no one to talk with.
Lithoniel, Cirdan’s housekeeper, came into the dining room to see if anything was needed and she grinned a good morning to the elfling.
“Good morning, Ereinion. Did you sleep well?” she asked as she reached out and took the now empty bowl that had contained the eggs.
“Yes, thank you,” came the little prince’s standard answer. “Thank you for breakfast.”
Lithoniel smiled. “You are very welcome, little one.” She then turned to Cirdan.
“I will be in the back garden hanging laundry should you need me, Cirdan,” she said, taking the bowl and walking back into the kitchen before Cirdan grunted his reply. The shipwright could not be bothered to use titles and refused for Lithoniel to address him as lord. She had been his housekeeper for many years and they had formed a warm friendship. However, she was not a lot of company for Ereinion as she had a husband and her own house to see to when her duties at Cirdan’s were done for the day.
After Lithoniel left silence once again descended on the dining room. Ereinion finished up his eggs and buttermilk biscuits and wiped his mouth and hands on his napkin. He pondered what to do next. He did not have any lessons today, so he had a free day…to do what he wasn’t exactly sure. Cirdan had told him that he could go down to the stretch of beach and the tide pools within view of the house, but the elfling was usually forced to play by himself. He had seen other children playing down on the beach and exploring the tide pools, but he hadn’t really been able to make friends with any of them. They had been cautious of the little elf, knowing by his dress and his speech that he was different from them. Ereinion had finally given up and now just kept to himself and sometimes for hours he would draw in the wet sand or explore the tide pools. However, when the tide came in most of the beach would disappear and the tidal pools were underwater. Ereinion would head back up to the house and sit on the window seat in his room, looking out over the gray water and watching ships coming and going from the docks.
Climbing down from his chair Ereinion then pushed it back under the table and turned to go to the hallway where his boots and cloak were.
“Do not stray far, Ereinion. It is going to rain later,” Cirdan said without looking up.
The elfling looked out the door at the end of the hallway at the blue sky and sunshine. “But there are hardly any clouds, Cirdan.”
“Mark my words, Ereinion. There will be rain this afternoon. Stay close.”
“Yes, Cirdan,” the little elf sighed as he pulled on his boots and put on his cloak and went out the door.
True to Cirdan’s prediction a few hours later the clouds began to move in and the wind began to pick up, kicking up sea spray and Ereinion found himself getting damp. Not having much else to do he took the path back up to the house, opened the door and went in. He took his cloak and hung it on the peg that Cirdan had installed especially for him, since the other ones were too high for him to reach. He sat down on the floor and took off his sandy boots and pushed them off to the side and then headed for Cirdan’s study, where the door was slightly open. Ereinion quietly opened the door, trying to be as silent as possible, knowing how Cirdan hated being disturbed while he was working. The combination of being an elf coupled with being in his stocking feet made the elfling’s footsteps silent and the shipwright was so engrossed in the plans he was working on that he was unaware of the little one’s presence.
Ereinion, like so many evenings in the past months clambered up onto the cushion of the window seat and sat…just sat watching the elder elf work. At times Cirdan would be working with ruler and compass, charcoal pencils and parchments; other times he would be working with small knives, carving model ships, replicas of the ones that would one day be full-sized and sailing the wide ocean. As opposed to other evenings though, Ereinion spoke, albeit softly.
“Yule is coming.”
There was no response.
“In just a week, Yule will be here,” the elfling repeated again.
Cirdan stopped for a moment, as if considering something. “Ah, Yule, you say? Hmm….yes, I suppose it is,” he said, returning to his work.
Ereinion’s heart sank. The shipwright’s reaction to being told that Yule was only a week away was no different than if he was told that the sun was setting. The elfling had dared hope that Cirdan would be just a little excited over the closeness of the holiday. Back at home it had been a busy time; a time of decorating, the baking of sweets…and of secret presents hidden away until the morning of Yule.
Ereinion thought back to the Yule celebrations he could recall. He remembered one year when his Ada and grandfather would disappear, sometimes for hours at a time, only to return with stray pieces of sawdust in their dark hair and smiling. That was the year that Ereinion had found a special present near the Yule tree. Fingolfin and Fingon had spent hours painstakingly creating a rocking horse for the elfling…complete with leather saddle and bridle. It had been painted a dappled color, just like his grandfather’s mount. The elfling had been overjoyed at his present and he had spent hours pretending that he was riding off on one adventure or another.
Ereinion thought of the stuffed rabbit that graced his bed upstairs. He had been told that his Naneth had sewn the beloved toy right after Ereinion was born. It was made of soft brown velvet and the ears were lined with pink velvet. It was the elfling’s beloved companion and it was now one of the few things that reminded him of home…and of love. Many of the nights that Ereinion had laid in bed here found him tightly gripping his stuffed rabbit, wishing that he were back home, listening to his Ada or Naneth telling him a bedtime story. But that had ended when they had to send him away. Now when Cirdan told him it was time he was in bed, Ereinion would make his way up the stairs to his room, get himself ready for bed and climb under the covers, just him and his rabbit. His windows were usually open at bit and he fell asleep listening to the rhythm of the ocean waves, wishing with all his heart that his Naneth and Ada were here to share it with him.
“May I help you decorate, Cirdan?” Ereinion asked after coming back to the present.
The shipwright stopped his carving for a moment, as if considering something.
“Decorate? Decorate what, Ereinion?”
This time the elder elf turned and looked at the elfling as if truly puzzled. “Decorate the house? What is wrong with it? What ever are you talking about, elfling?”
“For Yule. May I help with the…never mind, sir,” the elfling said, his head hanging in despair.
Cirdan went back to working on the new ship design, wondering what the elfling was going on about. Being a bachelor the shipwright had never gotten into the Yule spirit very much and as for decorating, well that just cluttered up one’s house. All that work, just to take it down a while later seemed like a waste of effort to him. All of the elves at the shipyard always took the day before and the day of Yule to spend with their families and Cirdan had always found it a good time to survey the docks and quays; less elves around to interrupt one’s thoughts and he could take his time inspecting things without getting in anyone’s way. There were many times that various families invited the elf to share Yule dinner with them and there were times that he had accepted but he really could not see what all of the fuss was about. It seemed mainly to be a time for elflings and Valar knew he had little dealings with them. Well, that is before Ereinion came. Cirdan had to admit that he was rather confounded by the elfling and not a little nervous. His time was spent at the shipyards with things he was familiar with, things that he knew, such as wood and tar and rope…rigging and sails, nails and varnish. But an elfling, well this was all new territory to him
As Ereinion lay in bed that night he came to a decision. Just because Cirdan did not seem to want to decorate, that surely didn’t mean that he couldn’t! The little mind worked overtime until the elfling drifted off to sleep.
Ereinion had risen early the next day and had been ready when Cirdan came to wake him to get ready to come down to breakfast. Lessons were going to be resuming soon and the elfling knew he had to work quickly. His tutor, Master Mordain, worked at the shipyards while not tutoring and he had been badly injured in an accident where a beam being lowered onto a new ship had fallen on him. Even with the quick healing of the elves the tutor had been unable to return to his normal activities until late this past week. Ereinion knew that within the next few days his lessons would resume and take up most of his afternoons. The little elf went down to breakfast and ate heartily and then Cirdan had left for the docks…leaving Ereinion to begin carrying out his plan.
After Lithoniel had cleaned up after breakfast and had gone outside to hang laundry Ereinion snuck into the kitchen and looked around. He needed to cut quite a bit of the tall, dry grass that grew on the sand dunes and he had tried to pick some before, but the grass was tough and sharp and he had ended up with sore hands; but he reasoned a knife would make cutting the grass much, much easier.
The elfling looked around the kitchen, trying to catch a glimpse of any knives, but saw none. He brought a stool over to the counter, climbed up on it and looked around. He didn’t see any knives on the counter, but he opened a drawer next to him, thinking they might be in there. He saw only some large wooden and metal spoons and some other utensils. He turned around on the stool and opened a drawer on the other side of him. His eyes widened when he saw the array of knives. He took a few moments and looked them over and decided on a medium sized knife, one that would fit in his small hand and he put it on the counter. He climbed down off of the stool, pushed the stool back to where it had been and went over and picked the knife up off of the counter and headed for the dunes.
Lithoniel was hanging the last of the laundry when Ereinion came up one of the paths from the dunes that led to the shore. The elfling had an armful of grass that grew in abundance in the area and he could hardly see where he was going.
The elleth put her hands on her hips, smiling at the elfling trying to look over the large armful of grass. She had no idea that also cradled in the bundle was the knife he had taken from the kitchen.
“My goodness, Ereinion. What on Arda are you going to do with all of that grass?” she asked.
The elfling stopped and smiled up at Lithoniel. “I am going to make Yule decorations,” he replied.
“Ah, I see,” the housekeeper answered, not really understanding what the little elf had in mind. “Just take care that you do not disturb the orderliness of the house or Cirdan will not be pleased,” she said smiling.
Ereinion smiled back at her. “I will be careful,” he said and took a few more steps towards the house, not seeing the small rock that was buried in the grass. He stumbled and the armful of grass went flying and he fell. As he hit the ground he landed with his hands out and his right hand hit something cold. He pushed himself up onto his knees and it wasn’t until he saw some red on the grass nearest him that he looked at his right hand. There was a large gash from where he had landed on the knife and it was bleeding profusely.
Lithoniel had looked over when the elfling fell and she put the sheet she had been hanging back on the laundry basket and went to go over to help Ereinion. Then she saw the blood.
“Ereinion,” she cried out and ran over and dropped to her knees, taking the injured hand into hers. She looked in horror at the blood that covered the little hand and the gash that ran the width of the palm; and then she saw the knife that had previously been hidden in the grass.
“Oh, Ereinion,” she gasped, taking the apron she was wearing and tearing a strip off of it and binding the bleeding hand. “Come, we must get you to the healers,” she said rising and picking up the elfling. She quickly made her way around the house and down the path that led to the docks and the marketplace.
When his hand had first been cut Ereinion had not felt anything. However, now the cut was starting to sting terribly and it brought tears to his eyes. He was also worried that Lithoniel was taking him to the healers. He had only been to the healers a few other times and his Ada or Naneth had always been with him. The healer’s was a scary place to the elfling, full of needles and bad tasting medicine and the elfling wanted no part of it and he began to sniffle.
“Please, Lithoniel, I want to go back to the house,” Ereinion pleaded. “I will be all right, please!”
The elleth appeared not to hear the elfling and she continued on down towards the docks and the center of the town. Lithoniel’s husband was working on braiding rope for rigging ships looked up and saw his panicked wife clutching an elfling in her arms and he dropped the rope and ran towards her.
“Lithoniel,” he said, alarmed.
“Oh Tarathiel,” she cried out. “Ereinion has cut himself terribly. I must get him to the healers.”
Tarathiel reached out and took Ereinion from his wife. “I will take the elfling. Go and tell Cirdan. He is on the last ship on the right. Tell him what has happened. I will meet you both at the healers.”
Lithoniel nodded and raised her skirts and began running down the dock. Tarathiel looked down at the small elfling and he took a hand and stroked the raven hair.
“Do not worry, little one. The healers will help,” he said, starting to walk rapidly towards some nearby buildings.
Ereinion was now in a lot of pain from the large cut on his hand and he was being carried by an elf he had only met twice before. At the moment he wanted nothing more than to be back home, in the arms of one of his parents; but that could not be.
“Naneth,” Ereinion whispered before he laid his head on Tarathiel’s shoulder and began to cry harder.
Before long they had reached the healers and Tarathiel opened the door and went in, still clutching Ereinion closely to him. One of the healers came out into the entryway and saw the elfling with the bloodied bandage around his hand. He quickly went over to Tarathiel and took the little elf from him.
“This way,” the healer said as he rapidly made his way into one of the side rooms. He gently set Ereinion down on the treatment table and took the hand with the bloodied bandage in his hand and began to unwrap it.
“What happened, little one?” the healer asked, looking at Ereinion who didn’t seem inclined to answer and then at Tarathiel.
Tarathiel shrugged his shoulders and put his hands out helplessly. “I do not know. I was working on the docks and my wife, who is the housekeeper for Cirdan, came carrying the elfling. I saw he was bleeding badly and took him from her. I sent her to bring Cirdan here.”
“Ah, Cirdan. Then that would mean that you are Ereinion,” the healer said kindly as he finished unwrapping the now blood-soaked bandage. “I am Nardenil.
The elfling squirmed and tried to pull his hand away from the healer who was trying to assess the extent of the cut.
“Nay, do not pull away, little one. I need to see how badly you are cut.” Nardenil could see that it was a large and deep cut, but fortunately, whatever the elfling had cut himself on had been sharp and sliced cleanly. He took a small cloth from the table beside the bed and folded it, making it as thick as he could and he put it on Ereinion’s leg and set the injured hand on it.
“Keep your hand there, little one. It is not bleeding as badly as it did before, but I do not want you to get blood all over yourself.”
The young healer went and began collecting supplies. He went to the fireplace that was always kept burning and poured some hot water from a kettle that was hanging on an iron arm near the fire. He took the bowl back to the tray and poured some cool water from another pitcher nearby to make the water warm, but not hot and added some astringent herbs. He then put a larger bowl on the tray, along with some jars and a suture needle and some thread and last of all bandages. He went back over to where Tarathiel was standing next to Ereinion and he had his hand on his shoulder.
Nardenil set the tray down on a stand next to the exam table and then pulled up a stool and sat down and put his hand on Ereinion’s knee.
“Ereinion, I have to clean your cut out to make sure there is no dirt in it. I am afraid it is going to sting and I am sorry. Do you understand?”
The raven head nodded. Ereinion was wishing with all of his being that his Naneth or Ada were here. He was hurt, he was scared and he wanted someone to hold him. At that moment the door opened and Cirdan walked in and quickly made his way to where the elfling sat.
“Good gracious, Ereinion. Whatever have you done to yourself?” he asked, seeing the badly cut hand and the fear in the child’s eyes. “Ai, young one. You really hurt yourself, did you not?”
The little elf nodded and a tear slipped from the corner of his eye and ran down his flawless cheek.
Nardenil spoke up. “Lord Cirdan, I was just telling Ereinion that I need to clean the cut and that it was going to hurt. Perhaps you could sit in a chair and hold him on your lap? It may help to calm him.”
Cirdan looked from the healer to the elfling and then Tarathiel, who moved one of the chairs that was against the wall nearer to the shipwright.
There was something in the pleading look that Ereinion gave to him that helped Cirdan make his decision. He picked the elfling up and pulled the chair closer to the exam table and sat, placing Ereinion gently sideways on his right leg so the injured hand would be accessible to the healer.
Nardenil smiled at them both and spread out a clean cloth on Cirdan’s leg and one on Ereinion’s to prevent any blood from getting on their clothes. He then took the injured hand gently in his. He asked Tarathiel if he would hold the large wooden bowl below Ereinion’s hand while he poured the water with the astringent herbs over it to clean it. Tarathiel agreed and he crouched down and held the bowl and watched as the healer gently and slowly poured the cleansing water over the cut.
“Ow,” Ereinion whispered and his little face screwed up at the sting the herbs imparted.
“I am sorry, little one. I know this hurts and I am sorry,” Nardenil said, looking at the elfling sympathetically.
“Yes, it does sting. I know it does Ereinion. You see, a while back I was carving a ship and my knife slipped and I cut three of my fingers deeply. One of the healers here did just what Nardenil is doing now,” Cirdan said nodding.
Ereinion looked from Cirdan back to what the healer was doing. Nardenil took a soft cloth and tenderly dried the little hand. He reached over to the tray and picked up a jar, took the lid off and scooped some paste onto his fingers, Ereinion’s eyes never leaving off watching what the healer was doing. When Nardenil took the lid off of the jar a pungent herbal smell filled the air and when the elfling saw the green paste on the healer’s finger he leaned against Cirdan’s chest, causing the shipwright to look down.
“What is wrong, Ereinion?”
The raven head leaning against his chest shook and the only word the little elf said was ‘no,’ in a voice so soft that even Cirdan had a hard time catching it. He felt the elfling tense as the healer took his hand and began to spread some of the green paste on either side of the cut.
“No,” came the whispered word again and Ereinion leaned into Cirdan harder.
“No? No what, Ereinion?” Cirdan asked, watching the healer spread the numbing paste onto the little hand. Having received his share of stitches over the years Cirdan knew what the herbal paste was for, but he could not understand why Ereinion kept saying no.
“Please no stitches,” he whimpered softly. Ereinion remembered the pungent smell of the herbal paste and recalled where he knew it from and he wanted no part of this, but he knew it would be wrong to make a big fuss, but he didn’t think there was anything wrong with sniffling.
Nardenil looked up in time to see two big, fat tears slide down the elfling’s cheeks and he picked up the clean cloth off of Ereinion’s leg and wiped the tears away.
Nardenil reached out and tucked a strand of ebony hair behind the delicately pointed little ear. “I am sorry, little one. That is a very bad cut and I need to give you stitches. The paste I just put on will help numb the skin around the cut.”
Ereinion sniffled once again and the pout became more pronounced. “It still hurts.”
“So, you have had stitches before, dear one?” the healer asked.
The little head nodded. “And they hurt and the needle was big and Naneth held me and-and…” With that the elfling finally dissolved into tears of fear and of loss. How he wished his Naneth were here. She could make anything better, even needles.
Cirdan suddenly felt an overwhelming need to help this little creature sitting on his lap and he wrapped his arms around the elfling and took a work-toughened hand and began to stroke the raven hair.
“Ai, Ereinion. I am so sorry that you have to go through this. If you are good and hold still and let the healer stitch you up, it will be over before you know it. Then when we get home we can have some of those butter cookies that Lithoniel baked earlier. Would you like that?”
Cirdan smiled when he felt the little head lying against his chest nod. “There, that’s a good answer. Now, just keep your head against my chest and keep your eyes closed and it will all be over soon,” the shipwright said softly.
Nardenil picked up the needle and threaded it and took the little hand, feeling it tense.
“You are being very brave, Ereinion. Just a few minutes and it will be over,” the healer said as he stuck the needle through the skin to put in the first stitch.
The elfling’s only reaction was to bury his head deeper into Cirdan’s tunic and squeeze his eyes shut as tightly as he could, praying to the Valar that it would soon be over. The shipwright kept stroking the ebony hair and telling the little elf that everything would be all right. The healer worked fast and steady and in a few minutes he snipped the thread and placed the needle back on the tray. He took a clean cloth and gently wiped the numbing paste off and placed it back on the tray. He opened another jar and carefully dabbed some healing ointment on the injury. He then reached out and touched the little elf’s shoulder.
“It is all over, little one. I am done and you were so very brave. I am very proud of you,” Nardenil said.
Ereinion sniffled and unclenched his eyes and slowly he turned to look at his hand that now bore eleven stitches. The healer took a length of bandage and began to wrap the little hand.
“He will need to keep this hand dry for a few days, Cirdan. I will wrap it and I will send some clean bandages home with you so that they can be changed daily for the next three days or so.”
The shipwright nodded and looked at the hand that seemed even smaller now that it was encased in the bandages. He had always been nervous around small elflings, but somehow, having this little elf perched on his leg while Ereinion had been scared but trying to be brave, Cirdan had felt something stir in him; feelings that were very foreign to him.
“Yes, yes, of course,” Cirdan said while smiling down at Ereinion. “I will see that his wound is kept clean and dry,” he said, looking at the elfling huddled in his embrace, trying to be brave but with a few tears coming from his eyes.
Sniffling Ereinion asked a question. “Cirdan, does that mean that I cannot go to the shore to play?”
Cirdan thought for a moment. “I think that for a few days it would be good if you did not, Ereinion. You may, without thinking, stick your hand in a tide pool and get it wet. Aye, I think that it will be good for you to spend a few days away from the water’s edge.”
Ereinion nodded and felt sad. He always looked forward to spending time at the shore…it was the time that he felt free and was able to pretend that his Naneth and Ada were with him, explaining to his now ‘imaginary’ parents the wonders of the seashore. But even this simple escape was to be taken from him, due to his carelessness. He pictured days spent in his room or in Cirdan’s study, watching the shipwright lost in his plans and sketches. The elfling was not looking forward to it, but resigned himself to the way it had to be; evenings spent watching the shipwright working on designs for new ships and lost in thought…with not even a word to be spared for a lonely elfling.
While these thoughts were running through Ereinion’s mind, Cirdan had some thoughts of his own. He had never thought of it before, because he had never been responsible for a small elfling until now, but he began to put himself in Ereinion’s place. Here was an elfling, a small one at that, sent to him for safety reasons; an elfling who was used to a loving family that included bedtime stories and comfort when he was hurt. These things were extremely foreign to Cirdan and he never stopped to consider them, until now. There was something about having this beautiful little elf, hurt and scared, sitting on his lap as the healer tended to him that stirred something within him; a feeling of a need to protect this young one, to let him know that everything was going to be all right. The shipwright didn’t know where these feelings came from, but he knew he had to act on them.
Cirdan pulled the little elf close to him. “You may not be able to go to the shore, Ereinion, but you can come to the shipyards with me and you can see the big ships and see the result of all of those evenings I spend in my study drawing and pondering.”
Ereinion looked up at Cirdan and smiled. That was all the elfling really wanted, to feel a part of things, to feel included.
“I would like that, Cirdan,” he said happily, sniffling hard and wiping his face and nose on his sleeve.
The shipwright smiled back. “Then that is what we will do. Thank you, Nardenil, for the care you have given Ereinion. I will make sure that he keeps his bandage dry for a few days until he is healed. I believe we have much that will keep us busy, away from the edge of the shore.”
Ereinion looked at Cirdan curiously and the shipwright chuckled, amazing the young elf. “We have Yule preparations to get to,” he said, winking at Ereinion, who smiled back.
Cirdan held to his words and didn’t let Ereinion go to the shore for fear he would get his wound wet; however, he did keep the young elf busy with Yule preparations. There were no evergreen trees close to the area, but Cirdan had asked for greens to be brought to the house and he and Ereinion had an enjoyable time decorating the house with them. Ereinion seemed to be more schooled on what to do with them and he instructed Cirdan on how to weave them through the banisters of the stairs to the upper level, laughing and cheering when the shipwright got them in the perfect spot. Cirdan didn’t know why, but the approval of the little elf seemed to mean a lot to him, much to the humor of his housekeeper. Lithoniel was glad and delighted to see a new light come to the eyes of the shipwright. She had told her husband that the elfling was just what the old elf needed…someone to give a new perspective on Yule and life in general. Ereinion seemed to know that the decorations would not be what he was used to at home, but he made a promise to himself that he would be happy with what they had. Cirdan had decorated the banister to the stairway with boughs of evergreen trees and Ereinion showed him how to twist the dried grasses of the dunes into wreaths. The elfling then showed Cirdan how the dried grasses could then be decorated by gluing seashells onto it. These were very different from the decorations that the elfling was used to, but when one was young, the imagination was not stifled and one could make a decoration from something that seemed normal and unremarkable. The shipwright’s eyes widened at the decorations that the elfling came up with, using only the dried dune grass and shells and driftwood collected from the shore.
Yule came upon the household of Cirdan quickly and in fact the shipwright did not even seem to notice that his house was not as orderly as it normally was…that it now sported pine boughs down the staircase and wreaths on just about every door of the house. Cirdan had been amazed at Ereinion’s imagination when it came to decorations. Ereinion had even insisted on taking a wreath to Nardenil as a Yule present. The healer had been touched that the elfling brought him a present, especially after the pain he had caused stitching the little one’s hand. Nardenil proudly hung the dune grass and seashell wreath on the door of his healing room and then began to tend to Ereinion’s hand. He unwrapped the bandages and smiled when he saw that the cut had healed nicely and that the wound had been kept clean and dry. The elfling tensed as Nardenil began snipping the stitches but was reassured that this part would not hurt. True to his word in just a few seconds the stitches had been removed and healing balm spread gently on the little hand and a light dressing was wrapped around his hand.
“You just need to keep your hand dry and clean for two more days, Ereinion and then you will be free to resume your trips to the shore.”
The elfling smiled brightly at this. He had missed being able to go down to the beach and he had to start on a new collection of seashells. He and Cirdan had used almost all of them on the Yule decorations!
The morning of Yule Cirdan had awoken at his usual time, just before the sun broke the horizon. But this morning he quietly crept to the door of Ereinion’s room and silently opened the door. He looked in on the elfling, all snuggled in the warm blankets of his bed, his stuffed rabbit clutched close, ebony hair streaming over the pillows and some strands laying across the flawless face. Cirdan once again felt a stirring in his heart. This perfect little being, this little elfling that had been entrusted into his care by the High King of the Noldor had found a way into his heart. Cirdan had made himself a promise that he would not fail his friend, that he would see that Ereinion Fingonion would be raised to the best of his abilities. However, he had found that as a guardian he was sadly lacking, not realizing the needs and wants of a small elf; but Cirdan had hoped that since Ereinion’s injury that he had begun to understand what it was that an elfling needed…love, reassurance that all would be well and someone to show Ereinion that he was safe. The shipwright never thought that he would have these feelings, but looking at the little elf he felt his heart stir. He wanted…no, he needed to make sure that Ereinion felt loved and that he knew that he would be taken care of. Seeing the little bandaged hand brought a feeling of protectiveness to Cirdan’s heart. He would see that this little elf, this little being that was the heir to throne would know that he was loved and that he mattered. To that end Cirdan silently closed the door to the elfling’s room and slipped down the hall.
Ereinion had been dreaming about his parents…being home with them, safe and warm in the arms of his Naneth and his Ada, listening to his Naneth singing songs of old; but then he woke up, realizing that he was not with them and that they had, for some reason he did not understand, sent him away to this land and this elf who did not seem to understand elflings. However, Ereinion had been taught that as a prince he needed to be brave and he intended on making his father proud of him.
The little elf got out of bed, turning around to straighten the blankets and tuck his stuffed rabbit in. He went over to the washstand to wash up. Cirdan had realized that a normal sized washstand and pitcher were far to tall and cumbersome for an elfling, so he had tasked the furniture maker to create a smaller version of the washstand and Cirdan had purchased a smaller pitcher and bowl so that Ereinion would be able to take care of washing up before coming down to breakfast more easily.
Ereinion went over to the wardrobe and chose a rust colored tunic and a pair of black leggings. He tugged the leggings on, glad that he didn’t have the cumbersome bandage to deal with any longer. He slipped the tunic over his head and went to the dressing table and brushed his hair until it was tangle-free and flowed like liquid satin over his shoulders. He opened a drawer in the wardrobe and pulled out a pair of thick socks. Cirdan had bought him a pair of slippers, but he preferred to walk in his stocking feet…especially just after Lithoniel polished the smooth wooden floor in the hallway.
He was ready to walk out the door when he remembered that this was Yule morning and he walked over to the window seat that overlooked the ocean and lifted the lid. He carefully took out some parchments that he had kept hidden from Cirdan. The little prince felt guilty that these were all that he had to give the shipwright for a Yule present. He had worked on the drawings and he hoped that Cirdan would like them. Ereinion carefully rolled them up and reached inside the window seat and took out a green ribbon that he had gotten from Lithoniel a few days ago. He lowered the window seat lid and climbed up onto it and took the parchments and rolled them up a little tighter. He held them carefully between his knees while he took the green ribbon and put it around the roll and tied it into a bow. Pleased that it looked like a rather good bow, Ereinion hopped down and made his way down the stairs and into the breakfast room.
Ereinion stopped when he noticed that Cirdan wasn’t at the table and the table was bare, except for the pair of candlesticks that were always on it. The elfling frowned. Had he slept through breakfast? It wasn’t that late and even if Cirdan ate before him Lithoniel always left a plate out for him.
At that moment the door to Cirdan’s study opened and the shipwright looked out. “Ah, Ereinion. Are you ready for something to eat?”
“Aye, sir,” he said, turning to look back at the empty dining room.
“Then come along, young one. This morning we are eating in here,” Cirdan said, opening the door wide and motioning the elfling inside. The sight that met Ereinion’s eyes made them go wide. A warm and inviting fire crackled softly in the large fireplace and added an air of hominess to the room.
The table that usually sat along one wall of the study and held an assortment of model ships had been placed in the center of the room. A beautiful red cloth had been draped over it and it was set with Cirdan’s best place settings and a group of various sized candles had been placed in the middle and were glowing warmly. And Cirdan was not alone. At the table Lithoniel and her husband Tarathiel sat on one side and at the end sat Nardenil the healer.
When Lithoniel saw Ereinion enter she got up and came over and picked him up and gave him a heartfelt hug.
“Happy Yule, dear one,” she said smiling.
The elfling, still not quite over the surprise smiled back and he looked at everyone.
“Merry Yule, everyone,” he said giving them all a blazing smile. He looked over at the table and saw that it was fairly groaning with food, although since the dishes were covered he didn’t actually know what they were going to be eating.
The elder elves kept looking at each other and smiling, as if they knew something that the youngest among them did not; and they did. At a nod from Cirdan Lithoniel, who was still holding the elfling turned so that Ereinion could see the far corner of the room and they all chuckled at the gasp that escaped from the little elf.
In the far corner of Cirdan’s study stood a small evergreen tree, festooned with ribbons and seashells and garlands of red berries. A red cloth covered the bottom of the tree and Ereinion noticed that there were presents underneath.
The little prince turned to Cirdan, eyes wide. “But Cirdan, where did the tree come from? They do not grow around here.”
The shipwright came over and took the elfling from Lithoniel, careful not to crush the rolled parchment Ereinion was being so careful of.
“Well, I recently found out that it is not possible to have a proper Yule celebration without a tree. So, the other day when the foresters went to bring more wood to build more ships, I told them that I needed a special kind of tree. The head forester said he knew just what kind was needed and he promised he would get it for me. He delivered it yesterday and while you were in bed last night Lithoniel, Tarathiel and I were busy decorating it.”
Cirdan nodded at Nardenil who had walked over near the tree and moved the red cloth aside. “And look at this, little one. Instead of cutting the tree down, the foresters dug it up and put burlap around the roots to keep the dirt on it. After Yule is over we are going to plant the tree on the side of the house that does not get a lot of wind. That way it will be a reminder of the first Yule that we spent together and we can watch it grow over the years, just as we will be watching you grow.”
Overcome with happiness Ereinion threw his arms around Cirdan’s neck and hugged tightly.
“Thank you, thank you, Cirdan. It is perfect!”
Cirdan hugged Ereinion back and smiled. “I am glad you like it, little one. Now, if you notice there are presents under the tree. Those are for you from each of us.”
Ereinion let go of the shipwright enough that he could turn to see the presents under the tree. He then looked at the rolled parchments he carefully held and his smile faded a bit.
Nardenil came over and put his hand on the little back. “What is wrong, Ereinion?”
“It is not fair that I get so many presents. I only have this to give to Cirdan,” the little elf said, looking down at the parchments in his hand. “And I do not have anything for anyone else,” he said, tears threatening to spill from his eyes.
“Little one, Yule is not about making sure you get presents. It is about being together and enjoying the company of family and friends. But this is your first Yule without your family and we knew you would miss them, so we wanted to make this as special as we could,” Nardenil said.
Ereinion gave Cirdan another hug and then held his hands out to Nardenil who took the elfling into a tight hug.
“Now, do you want to eat first or do you want to open your presents first?” Cirdan asked, already knowing the answer…or at least he thought he did.
Ereinion looked at the presents and then back at the table. He really wanted to open his presents badly, but that would mean that the others would have to wait to eat until he was done. His father had taught him that a prince must see to the needs of others before he saw to his own and it was a lesson that had stuck with him.
“I would like to eat first,” Ereinion said, causing the adults to raise their eyebrows.
“Then eat it shall be,” Nardenil said, carrying the elfling over to the table. He pulled out the chair and sat Ereinion on the thick cushion and pushed the chair in. Ereinion handed the healer the rolled parchments and Nardenil laid them on Cirdan’s desk.
The covers were taken off of the platters and Ereinion’s eyes went wide at the wonderful assortment of foods. There were fluffy scrambled eggs with herbs, sausage, bacon, warm buttermilk biscuits, a round honey cake, cinnamon rolls and small meat pies.
Cirdan picked up Ereinion’s plate and put a large spoonful of scrambled eggs and then he passed it to Lithoniel who put two pieces of bacon and a small sausage on and she then handed it to Tarathiel who added a buttermilk biscuit that he had broken open and buttered. The plate next went to Nardenil who looked at Ereinion.
“What would you like next, little one? Some honey cake, a cinnamon roll or a meat pie?”
“A piece of honey cake, please,” Ereinion said, his mouth watering at the delicious looking food making its way onto his plate. Nardenil then placed the plate in front of Ereinion and the others began serving themselves, while the elfling waited for everyone to be served.
Ereinion cleaned everything from his plate and drank his glass of milk. The moment his plate was empty Cirdan asked if he wished for some more.
“No thank you, sir. I ate so much I do not think I can move,” Ereinion said, patting his stomach, causing the adults to laugh.
“Ai, that is a shame. However will you open your presents if you cannot move?” Cirdan asked.
Ereinion looked over at the Yule tree and the boxes and bundles beneath it. “Well, I may be able to move enough for that,” he said seriously, bringing another round of smiles.
By now everyone had finished eating and were enjoying mugs of tea and Cirdan pushed his chair away from the table and walked over behind Ereinion and pulled his chair out.
“Then, by all means, young one, open your presents.”
Cirdan turned his chair so that he could watch as the elfling knelt down next to the tree and reached out for a large wooden box. It was tied with a length of ribbon and there was a small piece of parchment tucked under the ribbon that let the elfling know it was from Cirdan.
Ereinion carefully untied the ribbon, folded it and put it beside him and then lifted the lid off of the box. His eyes widened when he saw what it held. He looked to Cirdan, his smile as wide as it could get. He reached into the box and gently removed the large wooden ship, his jaw dropping at the detail. He moved the box far enough away that he could set the large ship down. He gently touched the cloth sail and looked in wonder at the thin, thin ropes that made up the rigging. He noticed a hatch in the middle of the deck with a tiny knob on it and he carefully pulled on it and it opened, revealing a cargo hold filled with small barrels of whatever his imagination wished to have in them. He closed the hatch and then saw the ship’s wheel, which really worked.
“I LOVE it, Cirdan. Thank you!” Ereinion said, looking at the shipwright.
Cirdan laughed. “I am glad, little one. However, there is another layer to the box.”
Ereinion ever so carefully set the large ship aside and reached into the box. There was a thin layer of wood that he removed and there, in the bottom of the box was a whole fleet of small, carved wooden ships of every design he had ever seen.